Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne are sharp enough songwriters that they haven't made a bad album. But 2007's "Traffic and Weather" lacked their usual snap, killing the momentum the band built up with its hit "Stacy's Mom" and forcing them to search for a new record company.
"Sky Full of Holes" is a welcome return to form. Collingwood and Schlesinger write finely etched portraits of lives in miniature, usually to ridiculously catchy pop-rock backgrounds. These aren't lives of triumph. Their subjects are usually muddling through life, and the writers show rather than tell this with an eye for details and humorous turns of phrases.
The song "Richie and Ruben" is a perfect example. The subjects are a couple of losers who fail when they open a bar called "Living Hell" and the bouncers laugh when they order a velvet rope. Same sad story when they open a boutique. As you dismiss them with a few laughs, you notice the song's narrator mention the money he's lost investing in his friends. Who's the biggest loser?
"Sky Full of Holes" is more acoustic than much of the Fountains' previous work, tabling the cheesy synthesizers. That doesn't make it slow or quiet, however.
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: Can we cheat with two? "A Road Song" is an example of another fine Fountains tradition - the forlorn long-distance love song - and includes the inspired rhyme of "Cracker Barrel" with "Will Ferrell." Also note the poignant "Cemetary Guns," with the line that gives this disc its title.